They Were Fans of the Chef. Now They Run His Restaurant.


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Every of the 45 Yellow Chilli areas worldwide, together with branches in Oman and Canada, is designed to look roughly the identical on the within. The Buena Park inside is stripped-down and neutral-toned, extra up to date and minimalist than colourful and Indian-inspired. Inside the doorway is a high-contrast black-and-white picture of Mr. Kapoor.

The menu is dominated by hearty north Indian dishes which can be signatures of Mr. Kapoor, just like the wealthy lentil stew Lalla Mussa Dal, and Shaam Savera, spinach-coated cheese dumplings submerged in a thick tomato gravy. Mr. Ghotra and Ms. Kaur employed the entire restaurant’s kitchen workers themselves, after which the company chef for Mr. Kapoor’s firm, Pradipto Das, flew in to assist with menu improvement and coaching.

However the couple have their very own concepts about how finest to attraction to the American market.

First, they’re seeking to goal solely Indian-People, who could also be extra accustomed to the chef. “I don’t need to run after another crowd,” Mr. Ghotra stated. “This model is so deep in Indian minds. However for non-Indians who don’t know him, it’ll take a few years to domesticate that model.”

Buena Park attracts hordes of vacationers to sights like Knott’s Berry Farm, however the couple plan as a substitute to attraction to the big Indian populations in close by cities like Irvine and Artesia. “If 5,000 folks come as soon as a month and spend $25, that’s our break-even,” Ms. Kaur stated.

The restaurant will take part in South Asian marriage ceremony expos, native festivals surrounding Indian holidays like Holi and Diwali, and occasions for teams of South Asian school college students. For the grand opening, Ms. Kaur hopes to ask Indian-People within the space for 2 days of ticketed dinners and cooking demonstrations that includes Mr. Kapoor, who will fly in for the event.

The couple are additionally wanting into turning the restaurant’s adjoining banquet corridor — a sprawling area with disco balls, flashy chandeliers and glossy, pearl-white wallpaper — right into a membership for younger Indian-People. The restaurant hosted a New Yr’s Eve occasion; the 350 tickets, priced from $100 to $125, offered out two weeks prematurely.


The Yellow Chilli menu consists primarily of wealthy Punjabi dishes with hearty sauces and fragrant spices.

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Liz Barclay for The New York Instances

They’re desirous about portray the outside white, to make it stand out extra among the many different flamboyant sights within the space. To lend a extra high-end really feel, they’ve been testing a valet parking service, although the restaurant has its personal 66-car lot.

“Folks began complaining, saying, ‘How might you’ve got a lot parking, after which I’ve to pay for it?’” Mr. Ghotra stated. “However we’re simply attempting to create a sure expertise.”

Mr. Ghotra and Ms. Kaur say they’ve sunk virtually $1 million into the area. “We offered our home and some different possessions,” Ms. Kaur stated. “We informed the youngsters, ‘Your school cash is in there.’”

Along with overhead prices, they pay a franchise price and month-to-month royalties to Mr. Kapoor’s firm. “Folks stated, ‘You can open a restaurant with $200,000 — why make investments near 1,000,000?’” Mr. Ghotra stated. “It’s as a result of we wished to create a model.”

Neither sees this funding as a bet.

“All people sooner or later in time is linked to Sanjeev Kapoor,” Ms. Kaur stated. “They see him on YouTube, they learn the books. It’s a secure guess. You don’t have to teach folks. A threat is whenever you put in 1,000,000 dollars and don’t get it ever. We all know we are going to get our million, and with these intangible advantages connected.”

By “intangible advantages,” Ms. Kaur was referring to the superstar that she believes she and her husband have attained ever since they began associating with Mr. Kapoor.


The Yellow Chilli’s tackle the luxuriant rice dish, biryani, features a large assortment of greens like carrots, cauliflower and inexperienced beans, plus complete cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods.

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Liz Barclay for The New York Instances

“In my M.B.A. WhatsApp group, I’m the star,” she stated. “We simply need to be acknowledged. We need to make sufficient Benjamins, however if you’re not acknowledged, what the heck?”

The couple name-dropped a few of their most up-to-date restaurant visitors, together with the mayor of Artesia, Ali Sajjad Taj, and the proprietor of MS Worldwide, Mr. Ghotra’s former employer, Manu Shah. “He’s a billionaire!” Mr. Ghotra stated of Mr. Shah. “He wished to take an image with us. All the massive pictures within the space need to shake arms with us.”

Ms. Kaur exclaimed, “We are able to go down in Wikipedia as the fellows who bought Sanjeev Kapoor to America!”

Whereas Yellow Chilli has been in soft-opening mode, locals have slowly been filtering in, curious to strive the restaurant once they see the Sanjeev Kapoor connection.

Tushar Sobti used to frequent the Yellow Chilli in Jalandhar, the place he grew up. He was excited to strive the Buena Park location, however in the end felt that a few of the dishes fell brief. “Have a spoonful of Lalla Mussa Dal in India, and have a spoon of it right here. It’s simply totally different,” he stated. “I can’t clarify it. It’s extra flavorful in India.”

“A lot extra flavorful,” added one other younger buyer, Ruchika Sinha, who had eaten at a distinct Yellow Chilli in India.

However on listening to in regards to the grand opening occasion that includes Mr. Kapoor, Ms. Sinha’s eyes lit up. “Actually? He’s coming right here?” she requested. “Possibly I’ll cease by.”


Desserts on the Yellow Chilli embrace Gulabi Gulkand, fried balls of dough full of a rose petal jam.

Credit score
Liz Barclay for The New York Instances

Kamal Singh, who runs India Home, a Buena Park restaurant began by his mother and father, stated that although there may be a number of buzz across the Yellow Chilli, “what separates a franchise and a family-run restaurant is private connections: These will at all times win in the long run.”

He stated it might be tough for the Yellow Chilli to resonate deeply locally, as a result of with a franchise “there may be at all times an agenda to simply make more cash.”

Mr. Ghotra and Ms. Kaur envision turning the Yellow Chilli into an American chain — “the Indian reply to Olive Backyard: genuine Indian meals for the center class,” Mr. Ghotra stated. They might additionally prefer to open branches of Mr. Kapoor’s fast-casual chain, the Yellow Chilli Specific, within the Los Angeles airport and native strip malls.

Sometime, they stated, they’ll carry Mr. Kapoor’s wonderful eating restaurant, Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, to the Las Vegas Strip. “I’d like to open at Mandalay Bay, or the Wynn, or the Cosmopolitan — something central and fashionable,” Mr. Ghotra stated. “Possibly the Trump resort?”

Ms. Kaur minimize in: “That’s vetoed.”

The 2 suppose incessantly about what they may do once they make their first million from the restaurant: They’ll lastly take down that Buddha statue (they’re too superstitious to take action proper now), purchase an costly home within the Hollywood Hills and open a Onerous Rock Cafe-style restaurant for Bollywood films.

“It’s all because of God,” Ms. Kaur stated, earlier than rapidly correcting herself. “I imply, because of Sanjeev Kapoor.”

Recipe: Lalla Mussa Dal

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